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Water crisis looms in Lilongwe

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LILONGWE Water Board (LWB) has said it will be disastrous if government decides to pull out of the $435 million Lake Malawi Water Project, saying there would be a water crisis in the Capital City that would even choke the economy.

LWB General Manager, Alfonso Chikuni, and his senior management team said this yesterday when they appeared before a joint parliamentary committee of Public Accounts (Pac), Agriculture, Irrigation and Water and Budget and Finance Committee.

“We tell the government that the water crisis we faced last time was just the beginning of the crisis. Lilongwe is the economic hub of the country and the crisis can have a major economic effect,” Chikuni said.

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He said the board looks at the Lake Malawi Water Project, the largest water project to be undertaken in the country, as the only way to avert a major crisis following the unceremonious abandonment of Diamphwe Water Project and that the improvement of Kamuzu Dam 1 would only be finished in 2023.

“If the Lake Malawi Water Project collapses, there is nothing we can do, we will have a water crisis probably never seen before,” he told the parliamentarians.

Chikuni said the board and the contractor, Khato Civils, has set April 2018 as the start of the project.

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He then told the legislators that China has been identified as one of the financiers of the mega water project and the exact cost of the project is $435 million.

He, however, said the project has delayed because the Attorney General issued a stop order for any activities in the project until some issues are addressed including that of environmental impact assessment.

“The stop order still stands now but we asked that they should allow us to do some activities and we will soon start communication activities to sensitise people on the project,” he said.

Chikuni said the project would need 18 megawatts of power to pump water from Lake Malawi to Lilongwe and surrounding areas and dispelled rumours that the project would suck all the water from the lake which is also famous for its tourism activities.

He said the project would deplete a maximum of 2mm of surface water per year which he said is in contrast to evaporation which he said takes out 1 cubic metre of water per year.

He, however, admitted this was an expensive project which, when completed, would push water tariffs in Lilongwe up but was quick to point out this was the only optional project as Diamphwe Dam Project is out and Kamuzu Dam 1 Project will take long to finish.

Chairperson of the joint committee, Joseph Chidanti Malunga, said the parliamentarians were impressed with the explanation by Chikuni and asked the government to remove the stop order on the project and instead speed it up to avert a possible water crisis that has potential to bring the Capital City to its knees.

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